Spe­cial­ist Ad­vises Test Well Wa­ter An­nu­ally

McDonald County Press - - SCHOOL -

MARSHFIELD — Ru­ral res­i­dents who get their wa­ter from pri­vate wells need to take steps to make sure their wa­ter sup­ply is safe, ac­cord­ing to Bob Schultheis, a nat­u­ral re­sources en­gi­neer­ing spe­cial­ist with Univer­sity of Mis­souri Ex­ten­sion.

The best way to make sure wa­ter is safe is with an an­nual wa­ter test that mon­i­tors for bac­te­ria and other con­tam­i­nants that can make well wa­ter un­healthy.

“This in­ex­pen­sive test can be ob­tained through your county’s Health De­part­ment and can pro­vide peace of mind for ru­ral home­own­ers, or can alert them to a se­ri­ous prob­lem that needs cor­rect­ing,” said Schultheis.

Sam­ple bot­tles for wa­ter tests, along with in­struc­tions, are avail­able from the county Health De­part­ments. Re­sults are nor­mally mailed back within seven to 10 days.

Schultheis re­sponds here to the most com­mon questions he re­ceives on this is­sue.

Q: Pro­tect­ing the safety of our drinking wa­ter is im­por­tant, but dif­fi­cult be­cause of the frac­tured ge­ol­ogy and cave struc­ture un­der­ly­ing the Ozarks. How big of a prob­lem is con­tam­i­na­tion of wa­ter wells in ru­ral ar­eas?

A: “Mis­souri De­part­ment of Health test­ing re­sults show that, de­pend­ing on the county, one-third to one-half of pri­vate wa­ter well sys­tems in south­west Mis­souri are con­tam­i­nated with co­l­iform bac­te­ria at un­safe lev­els,” said Schultheis.

Q: What are some com­mon ways wa­ter wells can get con­tam­i­nated?

A: Fail­ing sep­tic sys­tems lo­cated near the well are the big­gest con­cern, es­pe­cially if the well was drilled be­fore 1987. Heavy rain­fall flush­ing down sink­holes and los­ing streams, rapid hous­ing de­vel­op­ment within a cou­ple of miles of the well, and open­ing the plumb­ing sys­tem to make re­pairs are other com­mon ways.

Q: How of­ten should a pri­vate wa­ter well be tested for bac­te­ria and what does it cost?

A: “The wa­ter should be tested at least an­nu­ally, and prefer­ably quar­terly,” said Schultheis. Sam­ple bot­tles with in­struc­tions can be ob­tained from your county health de­part­ment, and the test­ing costs $10 per sam­ple. For most ac­cu­rate re­sults, keep the sam­ple cool and away from light and get it to the lab within six hours of draw­ing it. Test re­sults are re­turned to you within a week and should be kept with your im­por­tant pa­pers for li­a­bil­ity pur­poses.

Q: If my well tests pos­i­tive for bac­te­ria, what can I do to cor­rect it?

A: Shock-chlo­ri­na­tion with or­di­nary, un­scented laun­dry bleach or swim­ming pool chlo­rine tablets is of­ten an in­ex­pen­sive and ef­fec­tive way to cor­rect the prob­lem. Af­ter 7 to 10 days, the wa­ter should then be rechecked for bac­te­ria. If the prob­lem per­sists, other treat­ment op­tions may be re­quired.

Q: Where can I get more in­for­ma­tion on wa­ter test­ing and treat­ment op­tions?

A: For in­for­ma­tion, con­tact the near­est Univer­sity of Mis­souri Ex­ten­sion Cen­ter. Ask for MU Guides EQ100, 101, 102, and 103 from your county Univer­sity of Mis­souri Ex­ten­sion Cen­ter, go on­line to ex­ten­sion.mis­sour i.edu/webster or call Bob Schultheis at the Webster County Ex­ten­sion Cen­ter at 417-859-2044 for a step-by-step dis­in­fec­tion guide.

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